The penthouse was nothing short of spectacular. Sookie had only seen such things in brochures for luxury hotels, or maybe on a random episode of CSI: New York when some financial wiz ended up dead. She didn’t want to touch anything for fear of leaving fingerprints or smudges behind. Everything was so clean and shiny. Hopefully the puppy wouldn’t decide to mark everything with her own scent.
While Sookie looked around at what would be her home for the next couple of days, the puppy followed her and she tried to come up with a name for the dog. She had pure white fur and deep, dark eyes. Sookie had never seen a white German Shepherd before, but she liked that the dog was unique. When she opened the door to the bedroom that was just off the kitchen, the puppy ran ahead and jumped up onto the enormous bed that rested on a platform affixed to the wall across from her.
Another enormous television was mounted to the wall directly across from the bed, and glass walls divided the bedroom from the bathroom. There was a shower stall that was big enough for at least three people to shower in at once, and Sookie blushed at the lack of privacy she would have in there. Fortunately, it didn’t seem as though Eric was intending to spend his days resting in the penthouse while Sookie was there. Then again, that hadn’t been discussed yet so it was entirely possible.
She had to assume the room could become light-tight during daylight hours. There were white curtains and then black shades that lowered over them to keep additional light out, but that, most likely, wouldn’t be enough to keep a vampire from burning to a crisp during the day. It wasn’t surprising, but Eric had good taste. Granted, the way he had decorated the penthouse wasn’t the way she would do it, but it wasn’t her home. It was lovely all the same.
When she stepped out of the bedroom Eric was putting grocery bags on the counter, and Sookie stepped forward to start putting things away. From what Eric had told her the kitchen was fully stocked with everything she could possibly need to cook herself a meal. That was a good thing since living off of frozen pizza or microwave dinners would get boring. She hadn’t bought much, and when she remembered she didn’t have a vampire depending on her for sustenance any longer she intentionally bought frozen garlic bread and a garlic tomato sauce to make herself some sort of pasta dish.
“Eric, this penthouse is beautiful,” Sookie said while she unpacked things.
“I use it primarily for entertaining when there are other vampires visiting from different areas or states. Every room in the penthouse has the ability to become light-tight, so it’s ideal for guests of the undead variety,” he told her.
“You know, I was thinking to name the dog something that means little, or small. I know she won’t stay that way, but it would be slightly comical when she gets bigger,” Sookie volunteered as she put away the last of the groceries.
Eric thought for a moment and then said, “How about Moli?”
“Molly? That’s a Norse word?” she asked, surprised at his suggested.
“No, no, Moli,” he enunciated a little more for her, but it sounded just like Molly would. “It means ‘bits’ in my native language.”
Sookie’s face lit up. “I love it! Moli,” she called and to her amazement the puppy came running. “I think we have a winner.”
“I’d say so,” Eric agreed, and watched Sookie bend down to pick up the dog.
“What do you think, huh? Do you like the name Moli?” Sookie asked, and she got a little yelp in response. “Moli it is then.”
“Come on, I’ll show you where the other door is so you can access the roof or the freight elevator,” Eric offered.
Sookie followed him to a door that she wouldn’t even know was there if he hadn’t shown it to her. There was no handle for it, and he had to press his thumb to a little pad by the door before it would open. He gestured for Sookie to walk ahead of him, and she did so with Moli cradled in her arms.
“Before I leave in the morning I’ll make sure to get your thumb print added so you have access. I don’t use keys anymore if I can help it,” Eric explained.
Sookie didn’t really need to ask why. Keys could be a cumbersome business, and if Eric was in a rush to get someplace safe, having to dig a key out of his pocket, and then find the correct one, could cost him valuable time. Pressing his thumb to a little pad was much easier, and there was no way someone was going to be able to duplicate his thumb print. The roof garden was as impressive as the penthouse below it. Moli sniffed around at the various plants up there, and paused on a little stretch of grass to do her business.
“I’ll remember to bring baggies up here with me when she goes,” Sookie promised Eric. She wouldn’t leave his roof garden full of doggy mess.
When they got back down to the penthouse Eric retrieved a laptop from the closet in the bedroom and booted it up. While they waited for the computer to load, Sookie got down on the floor to play with Moli. Eric started a fire in the gas fireplace in the living room. He turned on the television, and the surround sound kicked in as well. Sookie looked around and noticed, for the first time, that there were tiny speakers all over the ceiling. No matter where she went in the penthouse she would be able to hear what was on TV—not that she would have much time to watch.
“It’s a good thing I don’t have to work tomorrow. I don’t think I could leave Moli alone on her first day,” Sookie said, and tossed a rubber squeak toy across the hardwood floor.
Moli yipped and chased after it, happy to play fetch with her mistress and return the toy for another round.
“She’s going to require a lot of your attention in the beginning, but as you train her she’ll become increasingly independent,” Eric agreed, and opened the security software program.
“There’s something I didn’t tell you about my meeting with Marnie earlier. I didn’t get a chance to say it before Bill arrived, and I didn’t want to say it with Lafayette and Jesus around,” Sookie said, having decided it was time to mention the possibility that René wasn’t the one responsible for Gran’s death.
“What did you leave out?” Eric asked curiously and sat at the table.
“Do you know anything about the murders my brother was accused of?” Sookie asked him.
The truth was, he’d had his investigator look into that as well, but all signs had pointed to Sookie’s brother as being the culprit. He had opportunity and motive with each crime. The murder of Sookie’s grandmother, however, didn’t fit the killer’s MO, which was something that been a red flag to both Eric and his investigator.
“The women all had sexual encounters with a vampire at some point in their life, and they were strangled to death,” Eric recited, and Sookie nodded. “Because your brother had relationships with the women that were killed the police assumed that he was the killer.”
“Right,” Sookie sighed. “See, my Gran was killed in the middle of all that. Because Bill had come to town it was assumed that the killer had come for me, but did so at the wrong time. I wasn’t home that night. Gran was murdered the night that Bill gave his talk for the Descendants of the Glorious Dead, which is a club that Gran belonged to. She was so thrilled about havin’ an honest to goodness Civil War vampire in town who was willin’ to fill in any gaps in their research. Bill had known quite a few of the ancestors of some of townsfolk, so they were all happy to talk to him if it meant satisfyin’ their curiosity.
“Anyway, the night of the talk Bill and I were on the outs. It was after we’d gone to Fangtasia, and there was an incident on the way home that really didn’t sit right with me. Between what had happened with those awful vampires that tried to bite me-”
“What vampires tried to bite you?” Eric growled in an almost possessive manner.
“The vampires that died in that fire, actually. I’d gone over to Bill’s the night after I was attacked by the Rattrays to give him the information for an electrical contractor that was willin’ to come out at night to give him an estimate. They were fixin’ to bite me but Bill stopped ’em at the last minute,” Sookie said, and Eric growled again.
“Useless,” he muttered under his breath, but Sookie heard him.
“Hey! I didn’t get bit, so it’s not the end of the world,” Sookie said.
“Why do you continue to defend him after what he’s done to you, Sookie? How was it, exactly, that Bill got them to stop?” Eric’s eyes skimmed over her.
“He told them I was his,” she said in a somewhat nervous tone.
“Of course he did. Those vampires were much older than Bill. The scent of his blood would have been very obvious to them since you’d only had it the night before. They never shouldn’t have even had the chance to get close enough to you for you to think you would be bitten against your will. He should have better protected you and he didn’t,” Eric explained.
Sookie glared at him for a moment, but knew he was right. Bill had known her feelings and he had done nothing until the last possible second.
“Fine, you’re right,” Sookie conceded, but there was no gloating from Eric.
“If you’re expecting me to be smug, it’s a waste of my time. You’re ignorant to our world, but that’s going to change,” he said.
“I am not ignorant! Ignorant implies that I have no interest in learnin’ anything and that isn’t true; I’ve just never been taught,” she corrected him, and that got a smile from Eric.
“I’m glad to hear that because I still owe you that lesson on supernatural creatures, but first, please continue with your original story,” he said, stretching his long legs out in front of him.
“As I was sayin’,” Sookie got up and joined him at the table, “Gran was killed in the middle of all that. All the other women had been strangled to death and had sexual relationships with vampires. Now Gran was pretty open-minded, but I’m quite certain she never had a sexual relationship with a vampire. When Gran was killed it wasn’t the same as it was with the other women. Gran’s death was very violent, and very bloody. I walked into the house that night and found her body on the kitchen floor. She was lyin’ in a puddle of her own blood,” Sookie recalled the image of Gran lying lifeless on the floor, and it made her eyes well.
“It’s unusual for a serial killer to change his methods in the middle of a spree,” Eric said before Sookie could get the words out.
“I’m no expert, but I’ve watched enough Law & Order and CSI to know that,” she said while she blinked away her tears. “Bud Dearborn, the sheriff, is a kind man but the police in Renard Parish aren’t exactly used to dealin’ with major crime. Usually their biggest problem is someone runnin’ the only red light in town, or too many drunks on the road after last call at Merlotte’s. They weren’t prepared for a serial killer.
“When Gran died it was a shock to everyone. The police interviewed Bill about it, but he had insisted that a vampire wouldn’t have committed that crime and left all the blood they did. It was just easier to lump Gran’s death in with the other women that had died and leave it at that. Of course that meant the police suspected Jason of killin’ his own grandmother, and there was no way in the world he could ever do that. Jason can be selfish, inconsiderate, greedy and rude a good deal of the time but he loved Gran every bit as much as me. They didn’t always see eye to eye, but he never would have killed her because of it.
“Then when I figured out that René was the real killer, I saw these bits and flashes of Gran’s murder in his mind. Seein’ her fight and struggle, even in little bursts was awfu,” Sookie paused to take a few deep breaths and get her emotions in check so she could continue. “The thing is I’ve been readin’ minds and memories for a long time now. Readin’ minds that are glamoured is still pretty new to me. What I know is that most often memories tend to playback in one of two ways: either folks remember ’em like they’re movies, or they have something like a still frame in their mind and then a whole bunch of thoughts that accompany that image. You know, like a picture in a newspaper with a caption underneath. With René it was like an old movie that’s played on a projector with the pops, hisses and missing frames, know what I mean?” Sookie asked and Eric nodded.
“You think he was glamoured?” Eric surmised.
“Yes, I think he was glamoured. I don’t think those memories were really his. I think they were planted there by someone tryin’ to cover up a crime,” Sookie said, and took a deep breath. “And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Gran told me today that she remembers feeling cold hands on her, and that the killer had dark hair and wore khakis. Now René had dark hair, but he was roughneck like my brother. If he ever wore a pair of khakis in his life it sure wasn’t on a night that warm, and definitely not while he was killin’ some old lady. Heck, I’m willin’ to bet if you looked into the closets of most guys in Bon Temps that are under the age of forty you aren’t likely to find anything other than blue jeans and camouflage pants for huntin’. If they have a suit at all, it’s in the back of the closet and only comes out for funerals or weddings, and even then it better be someone important that’s gettin’ hitched or buried. The only person I can think of with cold hands and dark hair that wears khakis on a regular basis is Bill,” Sookie concluded.
She hated to think it and it was even worse to say it out loud, but it made sense. In some twisted, psychopathic way, it made sense. Bill was distinctly aware of how heavily Gran’s opinion weighed on Sookie’s conscience. He knew very well that she took Gran’s advice seriously, and had Gran smelled something fishy where Bill was concerned she wouldn’t have hesitated to tell Sookie what her suspicions were. More to the point, Bill knew that Sookie would listen. Gran was the voice of reason for everything in Sookie’s world, and Bill knew it.
Sookie explained all of this to Eric, who sat quietly, listening intently while she talked. By the time she was finished Sookie had laid out a fairly detailed plot, complete with a motive, for why Bill would have wanted to kill her grandmother.
“I hate to think he would go to those extremes just to keep me all to himself, but I’m not sure what else to think at this point,” Sookie said, and wiped a few stray tears from her cheeks. “What if I fell in love with the man who murdered my Gran and I was just too blind to see it?”
“It certainly seems like a plausible theory,” Eric admitted. “Where is René now?”
“Dead. I killed him with a shovel,” Sookie confessed, and quickly added, “but it was self-defense. He had finally come for me, but I knew what he was plannin’ so I ran. Bill rose in the middle of the day to try and help me, but he just ended up burnin’ in the sun for it.”
“Bill was able to daywalk?” Eric asked, leaning forward with interest.
“Yeah, I guess so. He told me later that vampires can sometimes do that if they sense that a person that’s had their blood is in extreme danger,” Sookie explained.
“A vampire that young shouldn’t be able to rise during the day for any reason. Pam is roughly the same age as Bill, and she has a hard time resisting the pull of day,” Eric revealed. “She definitely wouldn’t be able to walk in the sun without meeting the True Death.”
“So what does that mean?” Sookie asked.
“Had Bill taken your blood prior to the attack?” Eric asked, and Sookie blushed a little.
“We had been together not long beforehand,” she admitted, but left it at that. “Why, what does that have to do with anything?”
“Sookie, you’re not entirely human. There’s a possibility the fairy in your blood gave him the ability to be out in the sun for an extended period of time,” Eric informed her, and Sookie’s eyes went wide.
“But how… I mean what…” she sputtered, trying to collect her thoughts.
“We need to test this,” Eric told her and she shook her head slowly. “Sookie, if your blood has the ability to allow vampires to walk in the day, do you have any idea how valuable that makes your blood? The taste alone is enough to make some vampires fight wars for you, but the added bonus of daywalking? We need to know what we’re dealing with.”
“So how do we test this?” Sookie asked, but she already suspected how they would find out.
Eric’s fangs came down and he said, “I humbly volunteer my services.”